Ever wondered what the the six most fraught words are in every serious relationship? Well, here you go: "My parents want to meet you." Just typing those words sent a little chill down my spine, not because I've had particularly bad experiences (not to brag but I do really well with parents, they find me delightful) but because I know the havoc that is about to take place in my head. The panic, the anxiety, the obsessing — they all feature heavily in the
phases of meeting your partner's family for the first time.
Here's the thing. No matter how warm, wonderful, and welcoming your partner assures you their family is, you're going to spiral a little bit, so it's best to accept that right from the jump. The more you fight it, the more the awkwardness wins. Just try and remember you'll get through this — it’s just one night of your life. And try to forget that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and your relationship is totally riding on the success or failure of this meeting. No big deal, no pressure. Are you hyperventilating? Oh
wait, that’s just me. Anyway, here are the brutally honest phases of meeting the parents. Brace yourself for some serious cringe.
When your partner drops the bomb that it’s time to meet their family, your first feelings are probably some variation of excitement and happiness. After all, it might mean your relationship is leveling up. Your partner must be really committed if they want you to meet their mom, right? Wow, so
this is love. Don’t worry, this phase doesn’t last long.
Still riding high on the fact that your partner is ready to take the next step with you, you begin picturing the meeting. And that’s when it hits you: OMG I am meeting the parents! So. Much. Pressure. What if they hate me? What should I wear? Should I bring a gift? Maybe I should just call in a bomb threat so the meeting has to be cancelled? That’s a completely rational and reasonable response to sharing a meal with someone. No, no it’s not. You need a better plan than committing a felony to avoid a couple hours of light conversation, so you enter phase three.
Preparation and Research
The best defense is a good offense, so it’s time to do some major recon and preparation. You begin grilling your partner for appropriate conversational topics (ignoring the growing look of concern on their face as you rapid fire questions about religion, politics, and the weird uncle no one talks about). You tear into your closet trying on every item of clothing you own until you have crafted the perfect parent-ready outfit. And, of course, you go deep down the rabbit hole with some online recon. You wonder how the heck anyone met the family before social media. Barbaric.
The day has arrived and you’re finally standing outside the front door waiting for the big meeting to commence. You’re heart is pounding and you’re rethinking your bomb threat idea (felony schmelony, am I right?). But they answer the door and it’s time to swallow the panic and meet and greet. They go in for a hug and a cheek kiss, you get confused, and accidentally kiss your parter’s mom on the mouth. It’s awkward. But you pledge to bring up your semester in France, hoping that she will just assume the kiss was just because you’ve very continental and sophisticated. (Fun fact, this is a true story that actually happened to my friend. OK, I’m lying, it happened to me.
The Small Talk Danger Zone
Congratulations, you’ve made it past the initial meet and greet and are hopefully on a first name basis with the family. Now comes the hard part: small talk. This is where all that preparation, research, and online stalking comes in handy. Or at least it would if your mind hadn’t gone suddenly blank. In place of all the witty banter and carefully preplanned insights about their favorite past-times, all you can think is, “I totally internet stalked you before this!” Don’t say that though. I feel fairly confident this particular insight would not be warmly received. Hopefully, your partner, sensing your full-blown panic, will step in and keep the conversation flowing. There may even be funny childhood photos and stories. And wine. (Just don’t get wasted).
Once you’ve manage to make it through the visit with minimal humiliation and conversational missteps, it’s time to leave them with a good impression. You help with dishes, dropping as few plates and glasses as possible, and say your goodbyes (without kissing this time! Success!). As you hop in the car and drive away, you’re filled with relief. You made it. You survived. The only thing left is the aftermath and judgment, when your partner gets the reviews from their parents. So again, like, no pressure.
The struggle is real.
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